Ohio man found guilty of dropping pipe bombs on Ohio River tugboats

Investigators used a bar code still attached to one of the bombs to track the suspect down.
Nathaniel Blayn Becker
Nathaniel Blayn Becker(Provided)
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 5:12 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - An Ohio man has been found guilty after federal investigators say he dropped pipe bombs on tugboats moving barges upstream on the Ohio River.

Nathaniel Blayn Becker, 42, of Marietta, faces up to 60 years in prison after a federal jury sitting in Charleston, West Virginia found him guilty Wednesday, according to the US Department of Justice.

The FBI and ATF launched an investigation after authorities found destructive devices on two different tugboats, one on Oct. 21, 2021, the other on Oct. 25, 2021. Both instances happened in Wood County, West Virginia.

In the first instance, a deckhand found the bomb comprising a 24-inch capped pipe with a fuse protruding from one end and explosive filler (ammonium nitrate and aluminum), according to court documents. An ATF agent assisted a bomb specialist technician in remotely disassembling the device still aboard the tugboat.

The second instance involved two four-inch pipe bombs also filled with ammonium nitrate and aluminum.

Two similar devices were discovered on a third tugboat on Oct. 26, but Becker faced no charges on them because they were found to contain non-explosive septic tank cleaner, the DOJ says.

Investigators found the first pipe bomb had a bar code still attached. They used the marking to trace the pipe to a Lowe’s in Marietta.

On four separate occasions shortly before then, security videos from the Lowe’s showed Becker purchasing pipes and bomb materials.

Around the time of the Oct. 21 incident, exterior security video from Lowe’s and a Walmart showed Becker carrying pipe bomb components toward an Ohio River bridge.

Investigators believe the bombs were dropped from that bridge, according to the DOJ.

Becker was previously convicted in August 2020 in Washington County Common Pleas Court for failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer. Court records show he brandished a knife at an officer during a traffic stop and led police on a car chase before barricading himself in his home. The standoff ended after police forced entry.

Becker was on probation for that conviction when prosecutors say he dropped the bombs on the barges.

He was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of possessing an unregistered destructive device and two counts of placing a destructive device on a vessel.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 18.

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